Monday, June 8, 2015

Book Review: Mosquitoland

Despite loving the cover, I almost gave up on this book. For the first 75 pages, I wasn't sure I should continue or not. It was the voice of the narrator. I just didn't like it. I didn't like the main character and that doesn't bode well for a reading experience. But, I didn't give up. I plowed on, regardless. My final verdict? This was a fairly well-done first novel. The author, David Arnold, managed to present a unique character, a coherent, driving plot-line, and a bit of a twist in the ending. I never did fully get behind the voice of the main character, but it was an okay read and I did come to feel for the poor girl's predicament.

Mary Iris Malone,otherwise known as Mim, (whose full name is emphasized a gazillion times in the book ... again, part of the voice I didn't care for) is on a thousand mile journey back to her mother. Her parents divorced and her father forced her to move, along with his new wife, to Mississippi (dubbed "Mosquitoland" by Mim). When called to the principal's office, in the opening pages, Mim overhears the principal speaking to her father and stepmother about Mim's ailing mother back in Cleveland. Mim immediately ditches school, steals her stepmother's tin of emergency money, and heads off to Cleveland to be with her possibly dying mother. Along the way, she encounters plenty of characters and dilemmas. She is courageous and determined. She will get to her mother, no matter what the cost.

These two comments from the inside flap drew me in but fell flat compared to what I was expecting:

"Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice (yes, it was too kaleidoscopic for my tastes), Mosquitoland is a modern American odyssey,as hilarious as it is heartbreaking."

"David Arnold's writing is both heartfelt and hilarious. You will fall in love with Mim, even as her grand journey will keep you guessing." - Ruta Sepetys, author of Out of the Easy

Although I didn't especially care for Mim, she was, indeed, unforgettable. Here's the character dilemma in her own words:

"I am Mary Iris Malone. and I am not okay.... I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange."

Strange, indeed.

The book is aimed at an audience of kids twelve and up. However, I did fully agree with one reviewer on Amazon who stated that the book should be fully billed as YA fare and not directed at children below the age of 16. This reviewer (S.B. Cincinnati) comments on the language, the portrayal of a teen going cold-turkey off prescribed medication, the unrealistic safety of the runaway girl, and the questionable relationship between a sixteen-year-old runaway and a stray twenty-one-year-old male. Besides this extensive list of reasons, she writes: "This book touches a lot of heavy subject matter, including: suicide, mental-illness, adultery, divorce, sexual assault, the rape of a child, homosexuality, death, treatment of those with mental challenges.... I think this book is more appropriate for a much older audience."

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